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Monday, February 3, 2014

Evolving Thoughts

In recognition of his upcoming birthday, our community minister Rev. Rachel Tedesco spoke yesterday about the religious ideas of Charles Darwin. He was born on February 12, 1809, the very same day as Abraham Lincoln. First Parish had recognized that amazing coincidence with a special program at the time of their shared bicentennial, but that program had been focused mainly on the theological implications of his scientific work. Yesterday, science was of course part of Rev. Tedesco's sermon, but she also share some interesting insights about Darwin's spiritual and social thinking.

For example, the idea of "social Darwinism" was already being discussed during his lifetime, and he made his opposition to the idea very clear. As a Unitarian, he was far more interested in cooperation. In fact, he argued:
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
I immediately thought of a line in an interview with Pete Seeger that I had heard earlier Sunday morning. Pete explained his embrace of the term "communist" in the anthropological sense by saying:
If there is a world here, if there is a human race here in a hundred years, we will have learned how to share again. 
Pete Seeger was, naturally, mentioned in the sermon itself and the congregation enjoyed singing several of his songs together in recognition of the decades of inspiration and leadership he provided.

Rev. Tedesco also connected the discussion of Darwin to another aspect of evolutionary thinking that has long fascinated me -- the role of electronic media in the consolidation of a global form of consciousness. As she mentioned, this was foreseen in some ways by the French theologian and anthropologist Teilhard de Chardin more than a half century ahead of the Internet itself. I had done some reading and writing about Teilhard many years ago, and was surprised to hear this idea twice in a week, as Krista Tippett had recently interviewed Andrew Revkin about Teilhard's concept of the Planetary Mind.
Cartographer Martin Vargic has recently prepared what might be considered a map of such a planet, as he applied National Geographic cartography standards to the Internet itself.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, James! I'm glad to know you liked the sermon. Means a lot since you already know so much about Darwin and this subject.